Q: My father served in the U.S. Army Infantry in Europe during World War II. His unit had to "secure" bombed-out buildings and go through ruins to be sure no snipers were waiting. Sometimes he came across abandoned German toys. Somehow he was able to ship them home in 1944 or '45. This is a utility truck with a cloth top to protect the soldiers in the back, a battery-operated searchlight, guns, and other accessories. The truck still has the price tag, which says "Hausser Originals" on one side and "Begehrt-Erprobte-Bewahrt-Gelobt!" on the other. The whole set also includes 17 figures, which I believe are made of elastolin. Can you give me any information about these toys and an estimated insurance recommendation?
A: Christian Hausser and his sons, Otto and Max, founded a toy company in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in 1904. The motto on the tag translates roughly to "sought after--tested--proven--praised!" The company is best-known for its miniature toy soldiers. It also made military and other vehicles, railway figures, animals, and other toys. The firm's Elastolin figures, made of a mixture of sawdust and glue pressed into molds and hand-painted, are the ones wanted by today's collectors. Elastolin figures were made until the 1960s. Hard plastic figures were first made by Hausser in 1955 and soft plastic figures in 1970. Production at Hausser ceased in 1983 and the molds were sold to Preiser. Your toy military vehicle, accessories, and soldiers are worth hundreds of dollars. A troop transport truck like yours with German soldiers inside sold at auction for $850 a few months ago. Other vehicles have sold for more than $200 each, and searchlights, guns, and soldiers have also sold for high prices. If you are insuring your collection, you need a written appraisal from an auction house or a recognized toy expert.